Thursday, August 18, 2022

Enterprise, Season 2: A Night In Sickbay

Enterprise, Season 2
"A Night In Sickbay"
Airdate: October 9, 2002
29 of 97 produced
30 of 97 aired


Archer brings Porthos on a sensitive diplomatic mission, where he (the dog) causes great offense and contracts a disease. While staying with his convalescing dog, Archer also has sex dreams about his first officer.

And a bunch of sexy women traipse around in their undies.


Matthew: I'm just going to state from the outset that this is not a good episode. In fact, it's quite bad. But instead of just flatly asserting this, I'm going to try to diagnose it. I believe it is bad because the A plot makes the characters (basically all the characters) seem foolish, and the B plot is super uncomfortable, exploitative, and unnecessary. Let's start with the A story. Archer is tasked with apologizing to the Kreetassans because they need to remain friends and obtain a piece of equipment from them. OK, fine. But Archer also takes his dog down to the planet with them, who promptly pees on a sacred tree, and then comes down with a severe reaction to a pathogen on the planet. So look. I'm fine with a plot revolving around Archer's dog. Examining the question of keeping "lesser animals" as pets is something a sci-fi show could do really interesting work with (I can imagine doing a mind meld with a dog, or an alien race taking issue with the concept of "pets"...). But Archer was really, momentously stupid to bring Porthos to the planet of the most easily offended people in the galaxy. They try to hang a lampshade on this by saying that "the Kreetassans should have read the genetic profile we sent," but that's a pretty lame excuse. It was a stupid risk to the mission, which makes any sympathy I might have for a sick pet story difficult to muster. I get that they were trying to go for a Data's Day-style bottle show, but boy, did they ever miss the mark on this one.

Kevin: Yeah. Archer just looks like an idiot, and a petulant one at that. Other captains have made decisions that got people killed that made me question their competence less than this one. If they were doing a parody of being that kind of dog owner, they succeeded, but I don't think they were. It's been a little silly that Porthos is there the whole time given the danger and space constraints, but this one really went too far, and it went too far for the sake of stupid jokes. Porthos has gotten off the ship twice so far and every time the writers need to mention him peeing on things. Chekov this is not. And maybe had they found a way for him to acknowledge his anger and defensiveness was coming from a place of fear over losing him, but we don't really get that. Archer was just a jerk throughout.

Matthew: When an episode starts out in the Decon Room, my yellow alert sensors are automatically tripped. When it's a three-way goo-smearing festival with girl-on-girl and man-on-dog action, yeaaah, the red alert sirens really start going off. It's already pretty disgusting when Jolene Blalock is exploited in this way, but throwing Linda Park into the mix and then having one of the major themes of the story being Archer's repressed desire for T'Pol (and possibly vice versa)? Just utterly cringeworthy. Archer and T'Pol have no demonstrated chemistry. Archer is also just about the most above-board guy when it comes to questions like this (not like Hirsute Manslut Riker). It's just unnecessary, out of left field, and can't lead anywhere good. Do Archer and T'Pol belong together? No. Does this damage the portrayal of their relationship, which could have been an excellent, non-sexual rapport based on mutual respect? Yes. Just wholly, utterly ill-advised from conception through execution.

Kevin: I cringed with my entire body when Phlox started casually suggesting T'Pol and Archer have sex. And the weird Freudian slips? Eesh. It's like the writers of Two Days and Two Nights having been rightfully banished to the Phantom Zone managed to escape to write more juvenile humor. The writers' treatment of T'Pol being an object of lust for every man on the crew is really starting to wear thin. It's like they decided to make the subtext about Seven of Nine the literal text for T'Pol. I watched some of the special features for season one with Rick Berman and Brannon Braga and they kept talking about the role of T'Pol as if literally "beautiful woman" is one of the roles to cast like "engineer" or "doctor." It would have been creaky in TOS but in the 21st century it's retrograde. And I could, if not excuse it, at least understand the shortcut if the characters or actors had any chemistry. And I really can't get over putting decon gel on each other. Like who thought that was a good idea? It feels unprofessional for the Starfleet officer characters in universe, and it also feel unprofessional to keep asking your actors to do that. I like when Star Trek visits other genres, but sleazy 90s Cinemax 'movie' is not one of them.


Matthew: Whatever else you want to say, Bakula and Billingsley committed to their scenes. As ill advised as some of the dialogue was, I cannot fault the actors. Bakula gets an honorable mention for doing the tree cutting ceremony without a whiff of snark or sarcasm. I cannot, however, decide if I like Jolene Blalock in this. I want to believe her protestations against the sexualizing of her character... but then she does an episode like this without anything seeming like protest.

Kevin: Well, we don't know the vibe or power dynamics at work or what conversations were had, so I'm happily staying at "This is all crap and no one should do it again and everyone responsible should feel bad and attend a mandatory HR training." I agree that Bakula and Billingsley asked of them. Billingsley in particular came shockingly close to making the material work. It doesn't, but dear Lord, did he try.

Production Values

Matthew: The prosthetic dog was unsettlingly realistic. Really a pretty great prop overall. But that's about the limit of the praise I have here. The Kreetassan apology ceremony, with chainsaws, tree and shirtless Archer with stick-on tattoos and beads in his hair, looked as ridiculous as it played out. The dream sequences were quite dorky looking, and the CGI bat was a pretty lame effect. And the decon sequence is no longer a production problem but a writing one. They know what they're going to get, and they still chose it to open the story with.

Kevin: Yeah, I have nothing to add here. The apology outfit was pinging my radar for getting close to "tribal pastiche" but maybe I'm just being hyper-vigilant since they spent so much time being dumb and sexist that I figured dumb and vaguely racist wasn't far behind.


Matthew: So how bad is it? Are we talking Code of Honor, Move Along Home, or Threshold bad here? I don't think this reaches the levels of the Code of Honor or Threshold, which are so cosmically bad that they almost turn the corner back around to "worth watching." This is more like "Move Along Home," which is bad, stupid, and also boring. But you have to throw in a dash of "Angel One" or "Let He Who Is Without Sin" to account for the sexual angle here. The level of exploitativeness is really off-putting here, and speaks poorly of Berman and Braga's instincts when it comes to female characters. It's quite obvious there are no female show runners on this show. But then the main elements driving the story also make the character seem foolish. So yeah. I don't see how I can massage this into a 2. It's a 1 all day. Definitely among the very worst of this series.

Kevin: If it were just the dog plot, it's a 2. That plot is dumb, but is technically anchored in an established character's established trait, so that would be just enough. But the sex plot damns this to a one. The sex angle first, comes completely out of nowhere, and again, evidences the 12-year-old sense of humor and worldview. Phlox stops microns from literally diagnosing Archer with blue balls. The episode then literally seems to suggest that Archer seriously contemplate using a colleague as a receptacle for his pent up sexual energy just because. Even if we established that they were attracted to each other, it would still be gross and demeaning. At least when the Doctor on Voyager suggested Janeway do it, it was with a hologram not a crew member, and it was packaged as a way to avoid this very problem. Reminding a captain that humans need connection and physical and emotional intimacy just like anyone else is one thing. Reducing that need for connection to the idea that men turn into horny idiots if they don't get laid often enough is a stupid lazy line, and it's a line they've gone to more than once now.

And yeah, I was saving this for my discussion of Cogenitor later in the season, but I looked it up and there is one woman who gets a handful or so of co-writer credits in the first two seasons and that's it. I'm increasingly certain there isn't even a second woman in the room. My kingdom for Jeri Taylor to come beat these guys with a pain stick.

This is a 1 for a total of 2. To paraphrase Futurama's Dr. Zoidberg: The episode is bad and you should feel bad.


  1. I never thought I'd have to agree with Zoidberg! :) But I balk at blaming Blalock for her performance, though.

    I have no reason to doubt she fought this behind the scenes, but once the curtain went up she did her best to give the director what he asked for. If you're going to fight off screen, you have to perform on screen, or you won't be worth fighting with.

    That thought led to me looking up David Straiton, the director, to find he was not apparently blamed for this episode, as he went on to direct eight more. And before this particular stinker, he had the much more par-for-the-course Desert Crossing. Just to emphasize that, once again, the compass needle of awfulness points straight at the writing.

    1. Yeah, I agree I don't infer that Blalock was fine with the script because she acted the scene as written. I wouldn't even blame her for not speaking up, she's probably the person with the least ability to do so.